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Realistic and Complex Combat Has Returned in Total War: Pharaoh

By Johnson Ge
Jun. 8, 2023 updated 10:28

Total War: Pharaoh is the upcoming title to the highly anticipated Total War franchise, set in the captivating world of ancient Egypt. The game wants players to immerse themselves in the most brutal and darkest days of the late Bronze Age, striving against the collapse of their empire.

Total War: Pharaoh takes place during the late Bronze Age, around 1200 BC, in Egypt. The game revolves around the death of Pharaoh Merneptah and the urgent need for a new ruler to lead the people. However, the path to seizing power is fraught with danger and challenges, with social unrest, natural disasters, and foreign invasions threatening to destabilize the kingdom. As players choose a faction, they must navigate these crises, quell uprisings, and protect the land from harm. Witness the stunning collapse of a once-great civilization as you lead your people through this tumultuous era.

A screenshot of  Total War: PharaohA screenshot of Total War: Pharaoh

Total War: Pharaoh is a return to the historical roots of the Total War series, immersing players in the rich and intricate details of the Bronze Age. The game's development is centered on historical accuracy, with no plans to introduce fantastical creatures through DLC, unlike the semi-mythical Total War Saga: Troy. Expect no giants capable of decimating multiple foes with a single strike, no flying dragons dominating the skies, and no firearms or cannons, as they did not exist during this era. While the invasion of the "Sea Peoples" is widely believed to be a key factor in the decline of several empires during this period, the developers have chosen to exclude naval battles from the game due to the limitations of technology and shipbuilding techniques of the time. Instead, ships will serve primarily as transportation for troops, allowing players to focus on the strategic and tactical aspects of land-based warfare. The game will showcase a return to the traditional hammer and anvil tactics of infantries, archers, and cavalries, or, more precisely, chariots.

A screenshot of Ramesses III‘s chariot in Total War: PharaohA screenshot of Ramesses III‘s chariot in Total War: Pharaoh 

Developers have acknowledged that simplifying the diversity of units can have a positive impact on the pace of battles while also reducing the burden on players. By doing so, players can focus more on the tactical level, like harassment and flanking, rather than being bogged down with frequent micro-management of units.

However, this does not mean that combat in Pharaoh will be a walk in the park. Players will face a new challenge in the form of dynamic weather elements introduced in the game. Different weather conditions will cause disruptive changes to the battlefield environment, adding an extra layer of complexity. For instance, heavy rain and sandstorms will seriously affect the accuracy of long-range units, thunderstorms will lower the morale of troops, and scorching heat will increase fatigue.

A screenshot of the sandstorm in Total War: PharaohA screenshot of the sandstorm in Total War: Pharaoh

Some weather conditions will also affect the terrain of the battlefield. Heavy rainfall can transform certain areas into muddy terrain, slowing down troop movement. Conversely, a bright and sunny day can dry up the terrain, creating a flat surface that is conducive to swift maneuvering. Additionally, in Total War: Pharaoh, weather conditions can impact fire attacks, which play a pivotal role in the game. For example, a patch of one-meter-high grass can provide infantry with cover and a stealthy approach, but it also increases the risk of being engulfed in flames. Rainy weather can dampen the effectiveness of fire attacks, creating a challenging obstacle for players to overcome.

Total War: Pharaoh introduces a significant change to the armor system, where troops now have armor durability stats that are degraded during combat. This means heavy armor units are no longer brainless meat shields, and players must weigh the benefits and costs of high armor units. Additionally, players can choose the stance of their melee troops after engaging in combat, such as the "Give ground" stance that allows gradual retreat while maintaining face-to-face contact with the enemy. This tactic can lure enemies deeper and prevent morale loss from being attacked in the rear. The "Advance" stance, on the other hand, pushes back the enemy and protects valuable units like archers.

The new troop stance provides more tactical possibilities.The new troop stance provides more tactical possibilities.

In the media playtest version, the importance of the new system is quite obvious. In the demo, the enemy often comes with longer-range units or more chariots. Players’ heavy armor units will also gradually lose combat effectiveness due to the new armor durability system if they take constant hits. However, players can leverage the suppression effect of sandstorms on ranged units and launch a charge against them or use the new advance stance to push the enemy into rainy and muddy terrain, making it difficult for them to escape. By skillfully utilizing the terrain and weather, players can easily turn the tide of the battle, akin to a real ancient war.

Moreover, the game offers custom content in the form of different personal bodyguards for player-controlled Ramesses III in various preset battles. The developers have provided players with the flexibility to choose their leader's combat style by switching between different types of bodyguards, such as heavy infantry, archer, or chariot.

The combat animation of the units in Total War: Pharaoh has been significantly improved, compensating for the reduced unit diversity. The synchronized combat animation of infantry on both sides is a sight to behold, with shield blocks, dodging, and blade-to-blade movements adding to the excitement. Players can look forward to creating their own war micro-movies with this feature.

A gif of combat animation in Total War: PharaohA gif of combat animation in Total War: Pharaoh

While many elements are yet to be revealed, the developers at Creative Assembly have put in a lot of effort to create immersive historical battles. The game boasts a dynamic and realistic weather system, armor durability, customizable bodyguards, and diverse unit animations, making Bronze Age warfare more engaging and fun. Players must strategize like real Bronze Age generals to succeed.

Total War: Pharaoh will release sometime this year. If you're interested in a Total War experience with more attention to realism, eager to experience ancient Egyptian warfare, or looking to hone your Total War tactics, keep an eye out for the surprises this game has in store.